Trek: Tilicho Lake – 5 days in Summer

This trek took just 5 days to complete including our travel to and from Kathmandu via Manang. This was one of the times I realized the courage of Nepali drivers (passengers too!) who drove through the super rocky off-road track conquering the hills one after another.

This trek took just 5 days to complete including our travel to and from Kathmandu via Manang. This was one of the times I realized the courage of Nepali drivers (passengers too!) who drove through the super rocky off-road track conquering the hills one after another.

During the first day, journey from an altitude of 760 meters (Besisahar) to 3200 meters (Pisang) was a memorable one. Terrain began from the plains with lush green forests beside us and ended up at the coniferous trees on the semi-bare hills. This adventurous ride had begun after we had hopped into a Mahindra Bolero promising to take us to Khangsar by the next day. Our travel had begun at around 1pm after reaching Besisahar about an hour before. Reaching Besisahar was easy; it was just around 5 hours drive in Toyota HiAce (microbus) from Kathmandu (Gongabu’s New Bus Park).

We were fortunate to find a didi in the microbus to Besisahar, who had contact with a driver and had promised to take us to Khangsar the very day. Had this didi not been in the micro, our stay would have been at Besisahar for the day until we could arrange a Bolero for the next day.

Although the ultimate destiny through Bolero ride was Khangsar, the destiny for the day was Pisang (3250 meters). On our way to Pisang we passed through several waterfalls, river crossings, wooden cantilever bridges, and the beautiful villages. We rejoiced the fresh air and praised the scenic beauty of the hills. Tal, a village by the bank of Marsyangdi River, somewhere in the middle of the way seemed to be a lovely place. Our driver said that a lot of trekkers prefer to begin their journey on foot from this place. One of our teammates also did notice the yellow Himalayan raspberry (aiselu) bush on the way, and so did we enjoyed stopping by and having a few of those. We reached Pisang late in the dark at around 8.15pm. Including the lunch for about an hour at Dharapani, we had spent almost two hours for rest and short breaks in between during the ride. After having Nepali Thali set we called it a day, and headed to our rooms agreeing to leave early morning at 6am to Khangsar (3756 meters)  the next day.

Leaving Pisang at 6.30am, we reached Khangsar after two complete hours. Then we bid good-bye to our driver dai, and grabbed some food and some garlic soup; the diet for the day. Grooming up as trekkers, we left Khangsar at 9.30am, and began using the trek sticks on the sunny day. We had taken some Diamox tablets to make sure no one was caught with altitude sickness. Stopping after almost every 10-20 minutes of walk as we reached higher, we cherished the landscape which got bare and barren throughout the walk up-hill. It was the real “I reached Manang” like feeling for me. Somewhat similar to what I had expected, the hills we passed through had no trees after walking for almost two hours from Khangsar. At times the trek would get mindboggling. Simply jaw dropping! Gravel would slide off the slopes as we passed through them. On the other side we would hear and even see the rocks sliding off into the river down below. It was simply thrilling to imagine oneself slipping off a foot and skidding to the river. But the beauty of bare hills above the snowline altitude was splendid. I called this terrain the “Grand Canyon” of Nepal.

Just as it started to snow, at around 2pm, we got the sight of the hotels at Tilicho Base Camp. Clinching the height of around 4200 meters was a no joke. For sure we were tired as hell. After pleasing the tummy with a plate full of dal-bhat, the team took a good rest while it had been heavily snowing outside. It got cold, and so did we sleep with our jackets and trousers on. Altitude had created a problem to one of us. My friend did get sick for a while but recovered pretty soon. As the day darkened, I spent a good time with the bed.

I slept fine, but my friends said that the night didn’t pass with ease for them. Another friend was struck with acute mountain sickness (AMS). The pills did not work well for him. We had decided to leave early in the morning to summit the snow-covered mountain and explore the lake. However, we started off a little late at around 6.40am. Most of the trekkers had left for the Lake by that time. We walked through the snow with freezing hand and face. I must say, snow was totally not in our plan. But the breadth taking view of the mountains and the blue-sheep (the Bharals) grazing on the hill exhilarated us to step further. We had to make it to the top somehow!

Exactly at 9.50am we reached the Lake. We had made it up to 4919 meters; highest altitude I had ever stepped on. The front portion of the lake had melted but the portion behind was all frozen. We took snaps to make sure we would have the something to “showoff on Facebook”. Little flakes of snow soon began to add up on the ground. Staying just for around fifteen minutes, at 10.05am, we began to descend. Once again one of our friends seemed a little unwell. We hurried to get to the lower altitude.

Reaching the Base Camp at 12.15pm, we had our lunch. Leaving the hotel at 2.30pm, the walk back to Khangsar took us another 4 hours. We stayed at Khangsar that day. Next day we once again took the Bolero ride for the whole day and reached Besisahar at 4.30pm. With a bunch of memories to cherish, and splendid views and moments captured on our cameras, we headed back to the busy bustling Kathmandu city on the fifth day of our journey.

Facts:

  • Altitude of the Lake: 4919 meters
  • Average number of days required: 5 days
  • Cost per person on average: NRs. 15,000

Here’s the rough timeline of our trek:

Day 1

  • Left Kathmandu (Gongabu) 6AM, reached Besisahar 12:30PM
  • Left Besisahar 1PM, reached Pisang 8:15PM

Day 2

  • Left Pisang 6:30AM, reached Khangshar 8:30 PM
  • Rest at Khangshar 8:30 – 9:30 AM
  • Left Khangshar 9:30AM, reached Tillicho Base Camp 2:15PM

Day 3

  • Left Tillicho Base Camp 6:40AM, reached Tillicho Lake 9:50AM
  • Stayed Tillicho Lake 9:50AM – 10:05AM
  • Left Tillicho Lake 10:05 AM, reached Tillicho Base Camp 12:15PM
  • Rest/Eat at Based Camp 12:15PM to 2:30PM
  • Left Base Camp 2:30PM, reached Lower Shreekharka 5:20PM
  • Left Lower Shreekharka 5:30PM, reached Khangshar 6:45PM

Day 4

  • Left Khangshar 7:40 AM, reached Besisahar 4:30PM

Day 5

  • Besisahar to Kathmandu after five hours of drive. 

Financials:

  • Ticket from Kathmandu to Besisahar (one way): NRs.420
  • Bolero ride from Besisahar to Khangsar (one way): NRs.2500 per person for Nepalese
  • Average cost of a meal per person: NRs.350-600 (price escalates with the altitude)

Do:

  • Carry and have the altitude sickness pill
  • Carry chocolates, protein bars and nutri-bars
  • Carry plenty of water and stay hydrated
  • Eat well enough
  • Sticks might be very helpful!
  • Begin the walk early in the morning each day allowing ample time to rest and reach the destiny for the day
  • Watch out for landslides and go slow in the landslide zones

Don’t:

  • Drink or smoke
  • Climb or drive more than 1300 meters once you are above 2500 meters.